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They’ve witnessed some of the most dramatic moments in British history and have come to symbolise the spirit of a nation but now the White Cliffs of Dover have for the first time their own writer-in-residence.

Writer and philosopher Julian Baggini has been commissioned by the National Trust to spend a week at the White Cliffs of Dover, much of which is cared for by the Trust, exploring through verse what this much loved stretch of the Kent coast says about our nation.

Based at the world famous and iconic South Foreland Lighthouse he will be delving into why the White Cliffs have become so wrapped up with our national identity and the role they play in creating our sense of belonging.

As an Island nation we’re never that far from the sea, and Julian Baggini will also be looking at what our love of the coast and seaside says about us too.

Julian Baggini, who co-founded The Philosophers’ Magazine, said: “For millions of Britons living across the world the White Cliffs is a clear symbol of Britain, in much the same way that the Statue of liberty has defined America. Even if we’ve never been to or seen the White Cliffs of Dover there is a collective sense that they matter.

“I want to get a real sense of what the White Cliffs of Dover mean for British people, including those for whom the cliffs were the first sight of the country, which would become their adopted home.

“But it’s not just about symbolism. Many important episodes in our national story have taken place on this stretch of coast, so I also want to look at how its local history has shaped our national history. And I also want to talk to people about home some contemporary debates, such as fishing and immigration, are being played out here.

“My suspicion is that if we look, there is an insightful portrait of the nation to be found engraved in the chalky cliffs of East Kent.”

Julian was born in Folkestone, his mother is from Dover and his father is an Italian whose first sight of his adoptive land in the early 1960’s was the White Cliffs of Dover.

The National Trust is currently trying to raise £1.2 million to acquire a stretch of the most famous segment of the White Cliffs above the Port of Dover.

Launched in late June the appeal [1] has seen more than ten thousand people supporting the campaign to acquire this missing link: the National Trust already owns five miles of the White Cliffs.

During his residency Julian will be blogging and capturing on camera his thoughts and observations.

Julian will be talking to the people that live and work in vicinity of the White Cliffs, taking time out to travel to France for a fresh perspective and debate their meaning with local experts, trying to appreciate why the coast has defined our sense of collective and personal identity.

The blog will be running during the residency (20-27 August) at a book of Julian’s observations and musings from his time at the White Cliffs of Dover will be published in late September this year.

Credit Tim Stubbings Photography

 

  • [1] There are three easy ways that money can be donated to the appeal:

- Make a donation online at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/whitecliffsappeal and you can choose to have your name engraved on our virtual White Cliffs of Dover.

- You can text a donation to support the appeal.  For example, if you wanted to

donate £5 you’d need to text ‘DOVR02 £5’ to ‘70070’. The amount that you wish to donate must be included in the text.

- Make a donation over the phone by calling 0844 800 1895.

  • Standing proud at over 110 metres (taller than Big Ben or the same height as twenty-five London buses stacked on top of each other), the White Cliffs of Dover have witnessed many dramatic moments in England’s history.  These include the arrival of the Romans and the welcome return of British armed forces after the evacuation of Dunkirk during the second-world war.
  • The cliffs are also home to a rich array of rich wildlife including the Adonis blue butterfly, rare coastal plants such as oxtongue broomrape and sea carrot, and birds including skylark, the only colony of Kittiwakes in Kent and peregrine falcons.

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